Becoming a successful author takes more than just being able to write well. Yes, your stories need to sweep your readers off their feet, but you need a whole different set of skills to reach them. Marketing skills for creative writers to be exact.
Marketing skills for creative writers consist of online presence, networking, goal setting, creating a database, and pitching. By being proactive and well prepared it becomes easier for new authors to approach agents and publishers, build a following, and create their personal brand.
A personal brand does not start and end with the internet. It requires some actual planning. And the beauty of it all is that it is never too late to start. Read on to find out more
Put in the work
When I just finished my first serious manuscript and it was accepted by a publisher, I thought that they would take care of the rest. That all I had to do is give them a list with email addresses of potential buyers and that my book would sell like hotcakes after that. Boy, was I mistaken.
Publishers will not make your audience come to you. The belief that they do all the marketing, prevented my first book from standing a chance. Just like most other published books out there, it stayed on the shelf. Here is some advice to prevent that from happening to you.
It takes more than a website
Most of us are aware that our name is our brand, and that being visible matters. Just like most of you, I have a Facebook– and an Instagram account. Some of you even Tweet and there are thousands of writers’ websites out there. But branding yourself well takes more than a flashy headshot and smooth tagline.
Branding takes more than being helpful on forums, having a wicked logo, and sharing your articles on your timeline. If you want your name to be mentioned together with Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, or Lucinda Riley, you will have to start marketing yourself. And there are in dept and creative ways to do so.
Set goals and objectives
Start from the top. Sit down and allow yourself to dream. What do you want? Some people are happy to sell a hundred copies of their book others want at least ten thousand fans. What is your wish?
Do not hold back in your dream, but be specific. Write your ultimate goal down. Remember, you can always create a new one when you have reached it or your wishes change.
After writing down your goal, break it down into smaller objectives. If you want a thousand reviews on Amazon, start by one, then ten, fifty, and so on. All big tasks look daunting and unreachable. But when you break them down into bite-size objectives, it becomes a lot easier. Do not forget to create a timeframe. When do you want to reach your goal, and how do your smaller ones fit in? Create your roadmap to success.
Slice of P.I.E.
If you are not sure where to start on your roadmap, sit down for some P.I.E. It helps you to discover where you need improvement and stands for:
- Performance: work you put in every day and the output from that effort
- Image: How other people perceive you
- Exposure: How people will find out about your work
You need to slice your pie evenly. You can work all year on your exposure, but if you fail in performance you have nothing to show.
If your image is not working in your favor, it does not matter how well you perform, people will never take a look at your work. If you perform well and have a wicked image, but do not know how to reach people. You are stuck just as much.
Build your network
Knowing where you are heading is the first step. The second step is all about making contact and building a strong network. You need to visit events for authors and publishers. This used to make me extremely nervous. Most of the people who know me will have a hard time believing this but I am a secret introvert.
To prevent me from standing at a wall the whole night, looking at others making connections at events, I invented the rule of three. It started by talking to at least three people. Today it is talking to as many people as possible and handing out my business card to at least three meaningful new contacts.
Pro tip: always carry your business cards with you.
If you want to know more about networking, and how to behave during an event, you might want to read this article on how to behave like a professional author:
Expand your network
No events? Work on your network by doing some research. Start with writing a list of authors you admire, and investigate the people in their professional circle. Who is their agent? What publishers have they worked with? Do they have a writing coach, and if yes, who? Would any of them be in the position to help you advance, and do you have something to offer them in return?
Remember, networking is a two-way street.
You can also use your website as a tool to network. Write a blog about that one person you admire. Make sure you cite them. Send them an email when the post is online and thank them for their wise words.
This is a beautiful opening to engage in conversation, and you can always ask them to share the link if they like it. Never post it on their social media pages yourself. I can tell you from experience that it does not feel like a compliment. It feels rude and invasive. So give people the option themselves.
I meet a lot of people. But when it comes to names and faces, I have a terrible memory. So, I created a contact database, in which I put the contact information, the occupation, and all other extra information.
I recommend you do the same. That way you can maintain contact on a more personal level, which makes you a pleasurable person to work with.
The ultimate pitch
Networking sounds easy on paper, but when you are in a room full of people who are looking for connections that benefit them, you might feel like you are choking. That is why you want to go in prepared.
Create an elevator pitch on who you are as an author, your current WIP, and what you need help with. Make it short, be to the point, and end with an open question.
Show interest in your conversational partner. By asking questions you cannot only find out what they are looking for or what they can offer, but it also gives you the option to steer the conversation in your preferred direction.
Be careful. If you fake your interest, people will notice. Ask questions and listen. Be honest and transparent.
When delivering your pitch and engaging in conversation, you want to watch your body language as well. As writers, we are used to sitting scooched over our laptops for days, but it is vital that you straighten your back, relax your shoulders and look people in the eye when you talk to them.
Make sure to investigate the subject a bit more if you are unsure about what to do with your body.
The last step requires you to be a bit balsy. If you want some free publicity, target a new crowd, and draw attention to your brand, you want to reach out to the media. Specifically, channels that feature writers. Think of podcasts such as Writers’ Routine and Write Now, or blogs such as Writermag and Medium.
Do not forget local media, radio stations, tv channels, etc. Journalists are often looking for a good story, and they cannot be happier when they find them. This is where that elevator pitch comes in handy again, so make sure you spend some time on that.
It is that simple. So what are you waiting for? Go out and build your brand, you best-selling author you!